Javy Báez Acknowledges Mistake on Bloop Single, David Ross Won’t Nitpick Because ‘Guys Play Their Butt Off’

Javy Báez’s magic act typically gets rave reviews, but not everyone was applauding the new trick he unveiled Wednesday night in which he turned a double into a single. With men on first and second and none out in the top of the 4th, El Mago got under a center-cut Kris Bubic fastball and sliced it off to right field. Upset with himself for missing the meatball and assuming it was going foul, he failed to bust it out of the box.

The ball blooped down in no-man’s land just inside the first base line by a few inches, giving Kris Bryant the opportunity to score while Anthony Rizzo got to third. Javy, of course, had to stay at first because of the delay and was subsequently erased from the basepaths when Willson Contreras grounded into a double play to drive Rizzo home.

Though it ended up being inconsequential once the Cubs hung a few more runs, this is the kind of thing that could mean the difference between winning or losing a tight game against a stronger opponent. Javy knows that and he admitted after the game that he’d make a mistake, adding that he’d also had a hard time picking the ball up right away. Perhaps more importantly, David Ross knows that Javy knows he goofed up.

“If I want to be the type of manager that nitpicks every little thing,” Ross said after the game. “These guys play their butt off every single night for me and for this group. If I feel like they’re dogging it, we’ll have a conversation. But I feel like that’s a play he may have assumed was foul.”

Ross tends to leave gaps in his spoken thoughts that make his quotes come off a little odd, but he still made his point clearly enough. You can tell he is possessed of the same deft hand as Joe Maddon when it came to being a player’s manager. He’s been around these guys and knows what buttons to push when. Or what buttons not to push.

What’s more, he’s around them all the time and he knows how hard they work. Javy plays with his throttle wide open, thereby earning a little grace when momentary lapses in judgment cloud his game. Like the time Clint Hurdle filled his diaper after Javy tossed his bat when he popped up in a game at Pittsburgh in 2018.

“I bust my ass every day to play hard,” Báez said. “I don’t think anyone plays this game harder than me. I respect [the game]. I respect whatever, but you don’t go out there and talk trash about someone. I have a lot of things I could say right now, but I don’t control what’s out there, what people talk about me.”

Rather than puffing out his chest and trying to argue that he’d done nothing wrong, Javy was bristling at the notion that he was a hot dog who thought he was bigger than the game. Pedro Strop had pulled him aside after the bat flip and offered a little constructive criticism, urging him to be better for the kids who look up to him.

“You know what I learned?” Baez said of that conversation. “How ugly I looked on that fly ball. I tossed the bat really high, didn’t run to first base and one of my teammates came up to me and said it, in a good way. You learn from it.”

It’s probably silly to try and paint this little teachable moment as some sort of pivot point for the season, especially when the Cubs are 10-2 and winners of six straight, so I won’t do that. Instead, I’ll look at it as another signpost in Manager David’s tenure that gives us a better idea of how he’s acclimating to his role.

I’m also looking at this as a sign that we’re probably going to see something really special from El Mago in the near future as he looks to make up for his mistake.

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